Orphan Sunday… in Ukraine!

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Tomorrow, November 3rd, is Orphan Sunday.  One day a year when Christians across the globe, bring awareness, advocacy, and care to the orphans of the world. 

I’m so excited about all that’s going on here in the states with Orphan Sunday.  New Horizons for Children will be shared with over 20 different congregations in 17 different states as a unique way to care for the orphan.  International orphan hosting is a combination of the ideas behind orphan sponsorship, missions trips, foreign exchange, and foster care.   It has all the benefits of those programs, plus the strong possibility of adoption after hosting… which is very rare for the children of this age. 

I love the USA and all, but I’m almost more excited about what’s happening in Ukraine.  Earlier this year I wrote a post about how much Ukraine has been doing for their own orphans.  The Orphan Sunday initiative isn’t all about the Americans saving the orphans, it’s about the global Church defending the cause of the orphan as God commands us to.    The movement has gotten so big in Ukraine that the group behind Orphan Sunday, Christian Alliance for Orphans, created a video that shares a glimpse of all that’s happening in Ukraine for the cause of the orphan. 

Last year, thousands of churches across Ukraine celebrated Orphan Sunday, including many of the majority Orthodox and Catholic churches joining with Protestants to spotlight God’s special love for orphans. This video gives Christians worldwide a glimpse into Orphan Sunday in the Ukrainian church, and how hearts are moving in that nation. We also enjoy greetings from other nations that have embraced Orphan Sunday. Join us now, as we travel to the capital city of Kiev, and the fertile, rolling hills of Slavyansk, Ukraine…

Watching this 30-minute video was so powerful and inspiring.  It’s amazing to see how God is working across denominations.  Take a look and enjoy interviews of orphans, adoptive families, a minister sharing the starfish story (an NHFC favorite), and a beautiful representations of a church that inspired 100 families to adopt.

Link to video here – You Will Be Found: Glimpses of Orphan Sunday in Ukraine

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Christmas Orphan Hosting–And a Blast from the Past

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One little storyline from a tv show I watched during my junior high years planted seeds of the orphan hosting concept in my heart 15 years ago.  Can you just imagine how much this old Boy Meets World episode means to me now when I look back at it?  It’s amazing how the littlest things from your past add up to big things in your future.

 

 

–Eric, nobody expects you to take care of all the needy children.
–Then why were they sent to me?

 

Do you think I can have parents for Christmas?

 

Why would you send me that little boy?
Why doesn’t that nice little boy have parents?
Why doesn’t that nice little boy have parents? 
Why did you send me that little kid?

 

I will take care of this.
I can be responsible for the happiness of one little boy.

 

You see, Tommy here doesn’t have a family,
so I thought it would be nice if he could spend Christmas with us.

 

Eric said we can hang out on weekends.
–Yeah it will be like he’s got a big brother… I figured it was something I could do.
 

 

It’s not too late for you to make the difference in the life of a needy child this Christmas!  New Horizons for Children is still looking for Christmas host families.  Deadlines to host Eastern European children begin just 1 week from now!  You can sign up here to take a peek at some of the awesome “Tommys”  out there who just want a family for Christmas.

 

NHFC - Christmas is Coming

“Family Portrait in Black & White”–Review

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I recently watched a documentary called “Family Portrait in Black and White” and it was too great for me to not share about it here on my blog.  Not only does it hit at the heart of my blog – orphan care in Eastern Europe, but also brings to light issues of race, nationality, family, and even orphan hosting!

“In a small Ukrainian town, Olga Nenya, raises 16 black orphans amidst a population of Slavic blue-eyed blondes. Their stories expose the harsh realities of growing up as a bi-racial child in Eastern Europe.” (IMDb.com)

This documentary, filmed in 2010, shows so many aspects of modern life in eastern Ukraine (Sumy), not only the life of the orphan, but even more at risk, the life of multi-racial orphans in a very Caucasian society.  Interviews show both Ukrainians and international visitors explaining the reality of life for these ostracized children.  Many people come from the middle-east and Africa to get a cheap education, and while studying in Ukraine, the end up getting white Ukrainian women pregnant.  It is a very shameful thing for these girls to bring home a mixed-race child, so it is commonly accepted fact of life that all these children end up in orphanages. 

They are Diamonds

I love the way Olga Nenya, the foster mom whose family is the focus of the film, talks about her foster children.  She says: “Many European families that host the kids in the summer call me saying they want to adopt this child.  But I don’t think Ukraine is such a wealthy country to give such ‘diamonds’ as presents to other countries.  Ukraine should value each and every one. They are Ukrainian citizens. Ukraine needs them.” Although she is preventing these children from being adopted – which is a totally different issue – it is because she values them so much.  She sees worth in children that so many others see as worthless. 

Orphan Hosting

Another thing I loved about this film was the way it gave a different perspective of orphan hosting – which is not at all mentioned in the trailers or descriptions, but actually seemed to make up a big part of their story! 

According to the movie, “Since the Chernobyl disaster, European charities have been helping disadvantaged Ukrainian children.  Seven of Olga’s foster children spend their summers with host families in Europe.”  I have never heard that orphan hosting is connected with Chernobyl… and I actually doubt that statement’s validity.  But to the makers of the film, there was some connection between that and the time orphan hosting began. 

All of her children who were hosted went to families in Europe – France and Italy were the ones mentioned.  To her as foster mom, she did not see them as a second family.  She saw them as strangers who cared for the kids and helped her alleviate some financial needs while the children were not at home for the summer. 

The film shows Maxim, one of her foster sons, and his hosting experience in Italy.  He had a single host dad and grandpa he stayed with every summer and Christmas.  You got to see them playing together, working on math homework, cooking dinner together, chatting about memories from previous hosting sessions, and speaking an impressive amount of Italian.  Sadly, his host dad could not adopt him because the countries do not allow single men to adopt, and Mama Nenya would never have allowed it anyways.  It was also heart wrenching to watch their goodbye, as both the boy and host family cried, and Max loaded a bus full of other hosted orphans headed back to Ukraine.  You could just see how bittersweet it was for him to leave a host family he loved and also return to a foster family he loves. 

This helped me to get a little more of a glimpse of what it’s like for our NHFC kids to be hosted.  Although they do not return to a home and a foster family, it is bittersweet for them to leave the US and return to a place they call home, although it may seem inferior to what they had during the summer or Christmas.  It is still home to them. 

Philosophical Parallel

At the end of the film, one of the older boys who has gone off to study in the University is featured with some very poignant statements.  Towards the end of his time in the foster home, things went bad between him and Mama Nenya.  Their mindsets were very different. 

This wasn’t the typical teen vs. parent conflict, and the film presents the ideological conflict that makes this documentary transcend the simple family/orphan storyline.  There is a montage of interview clips back and forth between Kiril, the older boy now on his own, and Olga Nenya, who is still at home with the other children but still very disapproving of Kiril. 

Mama: “We are living through times of change, Perestroika in Ukraine.  Moral norms are changing drastically.  Now it’s all about individual freedom.”   
Kiril: “None of mom’s older children are university educated.  Their values in life are discipline and constant physical labor.  What ‘art’? What ‘music’?  These things are not even considered.” 
M: “ ‘You have no right to impose your will on me.’  I disagree with that.”   
K: “If you think about it, our family resembles a totalitarian, Soviet regime.” 
M: “Soviet pioneers used to have duties.  Having a duty is very different from choosing whether you want to do something or not.”
K: “It’s like a herd! Perhaps, this comparison is rude but it’s accurate.”
M: “A child knows only food, potty, and parental care.  What opinions can he possibly have?”
K: “Mom is "’The Leader’, like Stalin was ‘The Greatest Leader’.  The rest are ‘Masses’.  Masses work together, perform collective work, and obey the decisions of just one person.  If not, your spirit will be crushed.”
M: “I saw something in Kiril which is not there.  I made a mistake.  It hurts.”
K: “I felt I was a dissident in our family.”
M: “He grew into a student but not a son and not a good person.”
K: “The children turned their back on me. Simply because they do what mom says.”
M: “I don’t want to talk about that person.”
K: “Now I only have three people in my life: Anna, Silva, Roma. They stayed with me through everything, never betrayed me.  I hope every one of us will have a happy life.  I wish that one day we might get together as friends, as a big, happy family.  We would talk about what we do, and where we live, and who became what in life.”

This part of the film really brought up some questions for me…
Did she really raise her foster children with a Soviet-like ideology?
Can you do both that and be totally loving?
How could a loving mother deny him as a son, a good person, and not want to talk to him?
Is this how family life should be?
I living in a loving and yet totalitarian home better than being in a cold institution?

The film did not provide answers, but really causes the viewer to ponder these deep concepts.  And I’m still thinking about it myself…

As for you, I really encourage you to check out the film!  It’s not your typical heart-warming orphan story.   It really brings issues of race, philosophy, family, and love into a different light. 

For more info & to watch the film online: http://www.familyportraitthefilm.com/story/

To keep up with the kids stories and news on the documentary: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Family-Portrait-in-Black-and-White/115413608526324
(I love this, it really makes the family real because there are updates… like photos of one of the boys being hosted this summer!)

Trailer on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OvzGzdXVprk 
(and shared below)

And like the video says at the end of the credits…
“Please consider becoming Summer Hosts to Eastern European Orphans in your community”!!!

Disclaimer – I have not received any compensation for writing this review.

Sundance Trailer

Wordless Week–Oceans

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More Than Just Crafts

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So, if you have asked me what I have been up to for the past few weeks, I have probably told you I was crafting… because that’s the truth.  Pretty much every spare moment I’ve been cutting, pasting, painting, nailing something to make it beautiful. 

I haven’t just been crafting for the fun of it, I’ve been creating items to sell at my church’s Spring Market at a women’s rally.  938802_10151584209885861_738576393_oThe Spring Market is for local women to sell hand-crafted items to others attending the event.

When I first heard about the event, I immediately knew I wanted a booth.  Not because I’m a crafter.  I haven’t really made anything before.  But with the opportunity to raise some money for New Horizons for Children and tell people about our ministry, I’d be willing to make just about anything!

So, I thought about it for a whole 12 hours and decided to make things with a map theme.  It not only is very trendy now, but also goes perfectly with our ministry that builds lasting connections with orphans and families who would otherwise be worlds apart. 

Knowing I was doing this for a cause that is so near to my heart, I wanted to be sure to put my heart into everything.  I wanted to make things that people would connect with, that would inspire them, that would cause their spirits to compassion to the people and children from other parts of the globe.   I knew that as I was crafting things, there would be a story behind why people were drawn to the item and what prompted them to purchase it. 

I crafted day and night and came up with over 100 saleable items… ranging from coasters and lamps, to clipboards and bookmarks.  It was so fun to get everything together and sell them with the other local NHFC moms at the church last night.  Some even pitched in with their own items they made.  

898113_10151584098685861_604081144_o

My favorite part of the night was just the affirmation that what I had made was more than just crafts.  It was the conversations and connections that people made with the items that made it worthwhile. 

A young college student came by and was so interested in all we had… and believe me, there was a lot to see!  The one she seemed most interested in was a nail and string depiction of Africa with a heart in the middle.  As I was making it, I had wondered, where in Africa do people have their hearts?  I knew that many people adopted from Ethiopia and there are also others who are passionate about missions in Kenya, so I figured someone’s heart would be drawn to this part of the country.  As the girl was reaching for her purse, she said “I have to get this for my friend.”  She went on to explain how her friend had gone on a missions trip to Africa and it completely changed her life.  She said when she returned to the US from her trip, she cried and cried because her heart was so broken for the people she met there and she longed to go back.  Her friend knew she would love this piece to remind her of Africa and the people she loved there. For that friend, I knew it would be more than just a craft.

Then there was a middle aged woman who came by our table, admiring all the things we had to share.  She loved all the different maps and places we featured on our items.  But as soon as she saw the blue “GO” I made with different Central American countries, she just had to have it.  She explained that she really wanted to give it to her business partner.  Her business partner has taken several trips to El Salvador and is in love with the people there.  When she returns from her trips she cries and cries because she longs to return so badly.  This lady knew she had to purchase this item for her because that is where she longs to be and spread the Gospel to the people she loves there so much.  For that business partner, I knew it would be much more than a craft. 

Together, the other host moms and I did not make a ton of money, but we did accomplish a couple of our goals.  We shared with many people about hosting and the dire need for people to love the school age orphans in Eastern Europe and got to share some meaningful items with people and their friends that will connect, inspire, and build compassion in their hearts for people around the world. 

I do have many leftover crafted items leftover from the market. Stay tuned to read how you can have your very own craft… that’s more than just a craft! Winking smile

Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord
Colossians 3:23 (NIV)

Both Hands of Global Orphan Care–Ukraine

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Sometimes it seems like everywhere I go, everyone I meet, everything I read or see just seems to connect with Ukraine somehow.  It could be perceptual vigilance… I say it’s more God’s doing. 

I keep hearing so much about all Ukraine is doing for their orphans.  And the more I read, the more I come to believe that what God is doing in that country, with the Ukrainian believers there, is really something special.  Out of all the news I hear about global orphan care, Ukraine really seems to be one of the main countries in the world leading the way… they are showing believers around the world how to really care for the fatherless!

A recent article from the Christian Alliance for Orphans titled “Passion for Orphans Continues to Grow in the Ukrainian Church” cites how great this move has been in their country.  Even CBN news did a recent report on all that is happening there – see video. It’s so touching to see how the Holy Spirit is working in so many hearts to change the lives of orphans for His glory.

I’m so touched, blessed, and honored that God has led me to care so deeply for the orphans in this country where He has long been at work. He has gone before us and that means the best is yet to come!

Map of Orphanhood in Ukraine

In some sense, it may seem like this movement in Ukraine is a threat to orphan hosting and families in America.  But the way I see it, we are really working hand-in-hand.  We share the same mission – to reach orphans and share God’s love with them. 

According to the recent statistics, there are 96,000 orphans in Ukraine and 27,000 of those are available for adoption!   In 2011 (most recent data), less than 700 Ukrainian orphans were adopted into the US… and overall there’s been less than 9,000 adopted since 1999. (source: US Department of State) This is all wonderful, but we still have such a long way to go! This is a big job that can’t be done by just one agency or group of people. 

Prayerfully, if we can all work on behalf of the orphans, God will transform a country and his children will be able to experience his love!

«Відкривай уста твої… для захисту всіх сиріт» Пр. 31:8
"Open your mouth … for the protection of all orphans"
Pr. 31:8

Wordless Week–“Already There”

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AlreadyThere

Just let these words soak into your spirit…

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